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Boycott a Russian-led UN Security Council – POLITICO

Colombe Cahen-Salvador is the co-founder of the global popular movement Atlasand co-founder of the pan-European Volt party.

Can a war criminal lead the United Nations Security Council?

On March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children – an alleged war crime. And yet, on April 1, Putin’s Russia is expected to take over the presidency of the most powerful international body.

Although it sounds like a cruel joke on April Fool’s Day, it’s not. And for 30 days – the duration of the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council – the world will be collectively shamed for allowing Putin’s imperialist Russia to assume this leadership role. Unless we do something to stop it, to signal that it can’t be like before.

We are taught to look at history in a very binary way – some have resisted and some have collaborated; or some have done good and some bad. But the truth is most of us are passive, either averting our eyes or simply waiting while making polite dinner conversation about how odious current events are. We’ve all been guilty of this – but not this time. This time, surely, we cannot look away.

But while stopping Russia may seem like an impossible task, there is evidence that citizen-led campaigns can impact how international organizations work. And while UN processes need deep reform, there is a way to defend democracy in these halls of power.

Atlas, the global grassroots movement I chair, did just that in 2021, by organizing acrobatic global primaries to shake up the opacity of the UN Secretary-General selection process. And thanks to the concerted effort of thousands of people around the world, we pushed the General Assembly to take note of our candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Likewise, now, as academics explore and push the argument that an ‘aggressor’ can’t be president, the world can still stop Russia from doing anything in a month the same way – before, of course, working to change this system that allows such absurd situations to happen in the first place.

Imagine if Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Augusto Pinochet’s Chile had taken the helm of the Security Council, that would have been incredible. “I would be sickened with rage,” my father said, after seeing his own father deported to the camps during World War II. And when I asked him if he thought such a thing would have been possible, he said, “People would never have let that happen.” I then spoke to him about Russia. . .

The Security Council is not only a renowned body that has the power of the “bully in the pulpit”; it “has primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security”. However, the body has long been the victim of traffic jams and its flaws have never been more apparent. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Where is the security that the Security Council must guarantee? There is no security.”

Thus, Russia must be prevented from occupying Ukraine and dismantling what remains of the international order – starting with the presidency next month.

And in this sense, Atlas has launched the “UN Boycott Russia” campaign, pushing at least seven of the 15 member countries of the Security Council to boycott the body throughout April, thus preventing Russia from passing what whether it be. Permanent members of the body can always veto matters of substance, but not procedural matters, which only require a “nine-member affirmative vote” under the provisional rules of procedure and related procedural developments.

Given their past support for suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, the countries most likely to support these efforts are the three permanent members of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, as well as five rotating members – Albania, Ecuador, Japan, Malta and Switzerland. And ensuring that seven of these eight countries do not show up for any of the sessions would mean that the Russian presidency would be completely useless.

It would also paint a powerful picture.

Images can embody the spirit of an era, of defiance. From photos of those climbing the Berlin Wall to that of Saudi Arabia’s launch of its 13-man ‘girls’ council’, moments captured in time illustrate the constant struggle between light and dark, freedom and coercion. Right now we have the power to show that democratic nations have taken a stand, and a picture of an empty Security Council chamber can be our witness to history.

However, this would only be a short-term solution.

In November 2023, the People’s Republic of China is expected to assume the presidency – meaning another country found guilty by the UN itself of abuses that may amount to crimes against humanity will lead it. And while this technique can be attempted as often as needed, more needs to be done.

The UN’s lack of democratic procedures, its refusal to include citizens and its inability to make binding decisions on many pressing issues – including responses to authoritarian leaders who are committing crimes around the world – must be addressed. .

Incredible support has been shown for Ukrainians amid constant Russian aggression and warfare so far. And we must ensure that while Russia still has a seat at the table, it sits alone with its partner in crime, China. We owe it to the people of Ukraine, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and all those who are tortured by authoritarianism.

We cannot remain passive or idly by. This time, let’s agree with my father.

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